USMNT Roundtable: Klinception

It's OK, Klinsi. We know, but we're not telling. (Photo: red-white-and-blues.com)

It’s OK, Klinsi. We know, but we’re not telling. (Photo: red-white-and-blues.com)

What’s Klinsi thinking about his final roster for World Cup 2014? Glad you asked…

This was  a tough assignment for the roundtable: creep inside Klinsi’s head and extract his current thinking about the 23-man roster for Brazil. Oh – and while you’re there, maybe leave a new thought or two, just to help him out.

It was a task at which many a roundtabler balked. Klinsi’s head is a scary place, filled with dark memories of Rudi Voller’s hair products, the answer to the question of whether Philipp Lahm is a treacherous hobbit or a pustulent gremlin, and a dense thicket of pretzel recipes. Why would anyone go into such a place?

For you, dear reader, for you. 

Try to forget, Klinsi, try to forget. (Photo: regista-blog.com)

Try to forget, Klinsi, try to forget. (Photo: regista-blog.com)

Austin Fido

Austin’s 23 for Brazil 

GKs: Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, Nick Rimando

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Brad Evans, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson, Michael Parkhurst

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Mix Diskerud, Landon Donovan, Fabian Johnson, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi

Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Aron Johannsson, Eddie Johnson

I know what you’re thinking: Agudelo!!?? The guy has played something like six minutes in the last 12 months of USMNT soccer, hasn’t he? (Exactly right. You know your national team stats.) You want to bring Juan Agudelo to Brazil?

Not me. But Klinsi does. One of Klinsmann’s priorities is, we know, to get more USMNT players mixing it with the big boys in Europe. Agudelo is currently on Stoke’s books, but unable to get a work permit to play in England because, like you said, he’s only played six minutes of international football in the last 12 months.

So he’s been parked in Utrecht for the moment, and if his next appeal doesn’t work out, he’ll get shunted over to another team…and then another…and then another – until whatever point Stoke tires of him, or he finally gets the international profile he needs to convince a British bureaucrat to toss him a visa. 

Part of the reason Agudelo isn’t a shoo-in for Brazil is because he has been shuffled along from club to club for much of the past two years. In 2011, when he was at least regularly coming off the bench for New York’s Red Bulls in MLS, Agudelo picked up 11 national team caps – and Klinsi gave him five of those.

But he stopped getting regular appearances for RBNY in 2012, got shipped out to Chivas to play for a terrible team, and finally got dropped into New England to see out 2013 and his MLS contract on the worst pitch in MLS. Klinsi capped him twice over this period, just to see how was getting on. Not great, was the answer. (At least, not great until he was playing to get himself the hell out of MLS.)

He needs a settled gig at a club with a proper pitch and meaningful competition for places. He needs to grow into what he could be: USMNT’s go-to guy for the 2018 World Cup. And if Stoke is his shot at getting what he needs, I think Klinsi is going to help him get to Stoke by boosting his profile with a World Cup call-up. 

(Oh – and if you’re worried about Stoke’s “style of football”, look up Stanley Matthews. If there is such a thing as a Stoke style, it is a lot more about Stanley Matthews than Tony Pulis.)

The new Wizard of Dribble? (Photo: backpost.wordpress.com)

The new Wizard of Dribble? (Photo: backpost.wordpress.com)

Joe Maskivish

Joe’s 23 for Brazil

GKs: Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, Nick Rimando

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Brad Evans, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson, Michael Parkhurst

Midfielders: Michael Bradley, Alejandro Bedoya, Clint Dempsey, Mix Diskerud, Landon Donovan, Fabian Johnson, Jermaine Jones, Brek Shea, Graham Zusi

Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Terrence Boyd, Aron Johannsson, Eddie Johnson

For much of the United States World Cup roster, no debate is needed. Guaranteed to make the trip are regulars like Matt Besler, DaMarcusBeasley, and Brad Guzan. So too will the core group Jurgen Klinsmann has dubbed the “spine” of the team. One thing is for certain, though, the entire 23-man roster is fluid.

USMNT is in the fortuitous situation of having multiple players who ply their trade at multiple positions. Take a guy like Geoff Cameron: if he’s not starting at right back, he can slide into a center back role in an emergency, or bump up to a defensive midfielder.

Michael Parkhurst has similar versatility. He is most assuredly a fullback, but can also play in the middle, in a pinch. Fabian Johnson should see some playing time, even a start or two, at left back or left midield.

Positional flexibility helps when determining who will occupy the final slots on the roster. Another important piece to consider is tactical substitutes.

Both Eddie Johnson and Brek Shea have essentially proven themselves ineffective as starters. Yet, on multiple occasions, both men have shown they are fully qualified when asked to come in to change a game.

More than once, we’ve seen Shea enter and display a special skill on the ball, leading to a goal. Eddie Johnson’s prowess in the air has stolen more than one game from the clutches of defeat with a timely header.

One might dispute the selection of Nick Rimando. Many analysts have automatically penciled in the same three goalkeepers for USMNT. Given the fact Rimando is 34 years old and really has no shot at playing time in the World Cup, some might feel this is an opportunity for the next generation of American ‘keepers to gain some experience.

Should Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid, or Cody Cropper make the trip instead? The answer is undoubtedly, emphatically, no. The deck is stacked against Rimando ever being USMNT’s number 1, but his gloves are stuffed with international experience, including a Gold Cup championship. His call-up is very much just reward for all he has done for the program.

The competition at any World Cup is so tight, the correct sub or the proper placement of a player can turn a team’s trip on a dime. Success in this tournament begins with the squad’s selection and picking the right parts will have as much to do with success as anything. 

Part man. Part parakeet. All USMNT impact sub for Brazil 2014? (Photo: zygosoccerrport.com)

Part man. Part parakeet. All USMNT impact sub for Brazil 2014? (Photo: zygosoccerrport.com)

Rob Thompson

Rob’s 23 for Brazil

GKs: Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, Nick Rimando

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Brad Evans, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson, Fabian Johnson, Michael Parkhurst

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Mix Diskerud, Landon Donovan, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi

Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson, Eddie Johnson, Chris Wondolowski

We are less than 100 days away from the first kickoff of the 2014 World Cup and I can hear the jet engines starting to warm up for USMNT’s flight to Brazil. Coach Klinsi has spent two years identifying his best mix of players, figuring out who will bring the correct balance of skill, speed, and strength to represent the United States.  In coaching circles getting the right balance of the three S’s is paramount for any competition.

I’m sure in Klinsi’s mind, he already has his final 23-man roster picked. Time to dig into Klinsi’s thoughts to determine who’s on that jet and why they are on that jet. 

With the goalkeepers there are no surprises: we will see Tim Howard starting, Brad Guzman as the deputy, and Nick Rimando is there for the ride.

Klinsmann has doubtless had some sleepless nights over USMNT’s date with Portugal in the middle match of their Group of Death schedule. This game seems the most relevant in getting points to advance, and it will also feature the right back going up against incumbent Ballon d’Or winner, Cristiano Ronaldo. 

The USMNT will need a real bruiser to cover Ronaldo on that day, to rattle him off his game. There may be no more critical position than right back in determining whether the Nats get out of their group, or just get bounced out of Brazil. Geoff Cameron will get the duty of subduing CR7. 

No shocks in midfield, which should be regarded as the strongest component of the squad. The only concern here is depth on the left, in case Landon Donovan goes down. For that reason, I think Brad Davis still has a shot at a call-up.

The offense has sputtered in the last few matches, but I’m putting that down to the attempt to give final opportunities to a few players on the strike-force bubble. However, when the jet leaves the runway, I fully expect to see Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson, Eddie Johnson, and Chris Wondolowski sitting in the forwards’ spots.

Wondolowski has done enough over the last two years, showcasing his ability to score goals from his positional play. He is not a striker who creates his own goals, but he does have an uncanny knack to be in at the right place at the right time. Wondo will be the spark summoned from the bench to illuminate the dying minutes of a match.

All the matches in WC 2014 are going to be huge challenges for USMNT, but there are two major questions Klinsi is trying to answer at the moment: how to nullify Cristiano Ronaldo? And will the strikers start scoring goals in time for the first game against Ghana in Natal?

Bring it, pretty boy. (Photo: theguardian.com)

Bring it, pretty boy. (Photo: theguardian.com)

****

Follow OTF’s USMNT roundtablers @JoeMaskivish and @roblthom66To join the next roundtable, contact Austin Fido @canetop.

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